Help me pick out a workhorse laser printer
August 31, 2010 2:39 PM   Subscribe

I am having an embarrassingly difficult time replacing an HP 4600 Laserjet printer. What is your methodology for selecting a high-volume laser printer?

I choose laserjets because of their reputation, but when I went to the HP website it was a confusing mess. I say this as someone who has been using online spaces since the days of the Vic-20. The one printer I liked had toner cartridges that cost $200+ apiece, which seems fishy. Nothing on Amazon rises above consumer grade.

What's your methodology for determining the quality of enterprise computing equipment?

Basically, looking at the printer's history page, I need something that can handle 4,600 pages a month, is rock solid, networks, will print color, and doesn't have obscene toner prices.

I know I am making obvious mistakes here, but haven't quite nailed down what they are, plus it's the beginning of the semester and I'm swamped and can't think straight.
posted by mecran01 to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Here's an example of what I'm talking about. I google "high volume laser printer" and an HP ad comes up for the HP 4700 (we have one. It is ok). I click on the link, and I'm taken to a page showing that the HP 4700 is discontinued. It's like the company is so big that nobody knows what is going on.
posted by mecran01 at 2:42 PM on August 31, 2010

I agree it's absurd. Why doesn't the '4700 is discontinued' page link to the what their marketing bods consider to be the successor ? Laughable (my amusement isn't limited to HP it just seems every big corp is unable to do this stuff).

Anyway there is this ...

HP Printer Finder

... hefty bit of flash which might be slow to load. Information is USA-centric but judging by your profile that will be OK with you.

You need to click on the 'Find a Replacement Printer' button.

Obviously only HP printers in the output but it might a starting point for you.
posted by southof40 at 3:33 PM on August 31, 2010

and doesn't have obscene toner prices.

Not available in reality I'm afraid. Color anything isn't cheap. FWIW last color laser I purchased was the Xerox 6360DN and I've had no issues with it. Toner refills are around $200 a pop per color, plus fusers rollers and whatever else you need for regular maintenance.

What's your methodology for determining the quality of enterprise computing equipment?

Big question. My short version is "how screwed are we if it dies?" If the system can be offline without huge impact for as long as it takes to be fixed or replaced, then skimping is fine.

the HP website it was a confusing mess

Constantly. They still don't have it working as well as the pre-compaq merger site did.
posted by anti social order at 3:35 PM on August 31, 2010

Samsung makes very solid laser printers, and unlike HP their Windows drivers and installers don't suck donkey balls.
posted by flabdablet at 4:23 PM on August 31, 2010

Here's PCWorld's top ten color laser printers. If you like HP, they recommend the CP4025dn. The Oki c610dtn seems to have more reasonably priced toner.
posted by bgrebs at 4:33 PM on August 31, 2010

I researched the crap out of my HP printer, and everyone said it was an awesome machine. when it started acting stupid, i researched how to resolve it. turns out that there is a huge population of people who own a 18-month old printer, like me, who are having the exact same problems that i'm having, who now face an outrageously expensive repair or must replace the thing.

I'm not a fan of HP, in fact, i rather hate the brand right now and would disrecommend it.

but what my point is - yeah i had one, LOL - that the research you do NOW is useful, but keep up on looking out for these kinds of problems, so you can make claims before the warranty runs out.
posted by ChefJoAnna at 5:29 PM on August 31, 2010

Yeah, seconding Samsung. Their bigger network machines are built like tanks, kinda like the way that HP used to be.
posted by scruss at 6:06 PM on August 31, 2010

Research aftermarket toner for the various models that appeal to you. We used generic toner for our Xerox Phaser 6110MFP (color laser multifunction) and got 60,000 pages out of it in about two years before the fuser died (I replaced the transfer belt and imaging unit at around 30,000 pages). I used this site to research recommended color laser printers and then checked the availability of aftermarket toner. Xerox uses toner drums that are basically just plastic containers. A lot of laser printers couple the toner reservoir with the imaging unit, making replacements harder to manufacture and hence more expensive.

We replaced the Xerox with an OKI Data MC560 that uses a similar setup. Aftermarket toner is $35 per drum, black lasts 6k, the other colors last 2k. Although the MC560 got some bad reviews I think the print engine is actually extremely solid. We've been running a couple thousand pages per month through it (10% color) with no complaints.

HP has really gone down hill since the 5MP days.
posted by ChrisHartley at 8:01 PM on August 31, 2010

First consider buying two lesser printers so you aren't out of business when one dies.

When you are researching ink and toner prices, you can't go by the price in dollars. You have to go by the price/pages metric.

(Although, on average, the more expensive a toner cart is, the better the value per page.)

When you say "high volume", what does that mean? 500 pages a month? 40,000? That makes a difference. Most printers are rated on their monthly duty cycle- the higher the duty cycle, the sturdier is is supposed to be. I would never advise pushing any office/workgroup printer beyond 25% of its duty cycle.

Xerox is good, but expensive.

HP's quality has gone down- but only to the point that they are no better or worse than any other brand. And they are ugly.

Lexmark is hit or miss- some machines seem to be rock solid, others are flimsy junk. I like the C53x series a lot.

I will defer to others on the Samsung recommendation: the Samsung machines I have seen in the past were very flimsy. I've seen a couple of their mono laser engines that were utter crap- pieces breaking off, sensors that don't work right, etc.

Drivers for workgroup-style printers are a non-issue. If they support PCL or PS, then you can use whatever comes with Windows just fine, usually. Plus, HP does make "simple" drivers available if you look.

(note regarding Xerox Phasers: Those components should have lasted longer. Generic toner can kill those parts. Especially the imaging unit and fuser. Xerox fusers should last longer than that. If the bulb went, no, it wasn't the toner. But if it was jamming or not fusing correctly, then generic toner is a possible cause. The imaging unit has a pool of developer in it. The toner has a small amount of developer mixed in with it to replenish the fuser's supply. If the ratios aren't exactly right, the imaging unit will die early. Beware.)
posted by gjc at 4:44 AM on September 1, 2010

Here are some links that might help you find an HP printer...
  • HP Instant Reference Guide makes it easy to drill down into product lines and get the speeds and feeds, without the horrid navigation of
  • Page yield lookup tells you how many pages to expect from a given cartridge, which may help you get a sense of cost per page.
  • The HP Supplies Finder might be helpful for getting a sense of what consumables might best fit your needs.
The Printer Finder that southof40 links to is a decent resource.

Also, be aware that the "duty cycle" and "monthly recommended volume" are two different things. Duty cycle refers to continual operation in a testing lab, whereas the monthly recommended volume better reflects a printer's capability in everyday situations (starting and stopping, affects of toner and paper dust, wear and tear on service doors, etc).

Finally, one thing to consider about HP and their consumables: HP cartridges are single unit, and don't require replacing the fuser, corona wire, toner hopper and other pieces of the imaging unit. A new cartridge includes all of these components. (This may be a bit inaccurate, however, on some of the larger and older HP LaserJets.) Some brands require servicing these parts separately at different intervals, which can result in added service costs and downtime.

Disclosure: I work for a company whose biggest client is HP.
posted by slogger at 7:39 AM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

(Note: I am an authorized dealer for HP, Samsung, OKI, and Kyocera) Having said that...

HP's quality has really tanked in the last several years, especially on their color products. The only time I sell HP is when some company's IT department insists on it.

The higher-end Samsungs are built well enough, but the colors run on the dull side, photos and large graphics won't be as vivid as you're used to from the HP. Still nice and crisp though.

I cannot recommend OKI color printers at this time, unless operating cost is no object. They do make a dynamite looking print, but even with their two-piece consumables, your real-world operating cost will be higher than most other dry toner printers.

Your HP 4600 (I'm assuming Color LaserJet, since there isn't a B&W 4600) is 17ppm color and black. Given this category, I'd suggest a Kyocera FS-C5200DN. 23 ppm, great operating cost, built like a tank, very long-life (200k!) drums, very reasonable toner costs.

Whatever you decide on, please avoid Xerox solid-ink Phasers. They make a fantastic looking print, but good God will it ever cost you in supplies. Xerox advertises low operating costs, but that's assuming perfect yields and pretty much continuous running. If the printer is used sporadically throughout the day, you will get clogged nozzles, and you will waste an infuriating amount of supplies running cleaning cycles. Over the life of the machine, your TCO (Total Cost of Operation, machine cost + operating cost) will be 2x - 3x what a quality dry toner laser would be.
posted by xedrik at 10:37 AM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all so much for this incredibly useful discussion. Our printer isn't really high-volume according to most uses of the term--about 5,000 pages per month, and 328,000 over the last six years.

If anyone can recommend a *serious* printer repair place in Utah, I could probably fix it's current problems for <>
I will look over these options. The Kyocera sounds especially interesting.
posted by mecran01 at 11:27 AM on September 1, 2010

Careful with Kyocera. They do indeed have drums rated for ridiculous page counts, but where I live they have a reputation for early failure.

HP does make "simple" drivers available if you look

Yes they do, and they come packaged inside something called "Ezi-Install", and if Ezi-Install goes wrong it will break the Print Spooler service and cost you at least half an hour of fiddling and farting about to fix it.
posted by flabdablet at 9:33 PM on September 1, 2010

Response by poster: Our IT department told me that only HP printers are allowed on the network. What?
posted by mecran01 at 11:06 AM on October 29, 2010

As a working netadmin, I can think of no reason why a competent IT department would ever make such a rule. Question their reasoning. If it's bullshit, go over their heads.

Normally I would never recommend fighting with IT, because IT knows where the bodies are buried. But an IT department that enforces equipment brands without sufficient reason to do so is, in my opinion, unlikely to be competent enough to pose a threat.
posted by flabdablet at 6:26 PM on October 29, 2010

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